It is estimated that 85% of Americans experience some type of back pain. And if you’ve been diagnosed with sciatica and its signature pulsing pain that can radiate through your hip, leg, and foot, you know that it’s no picnic.
Your sciatic nerve is actually comprised of five nerve roots from your lower back. These nerve roots join together and run from the lower back down through each leg, and into your feet. Sometimes, through a maddeningly vast array of reasons, one of these nerves will become compressed, irritated, or injured, and cause pain. Because of this multi-nerve composition, depending on which nerve is damaged, sciatic pain can be experienced in a variety of locations and ways, including pain that is stabbing or burning, numbness and tingling, or weakness. And, if multiple nerves are affected, you can experience pain in more than one area, and in more than one way.
Sciatica is most often caused by one of your nerves being pinched by a herniated disc in your back. This can happen through frequently lifting heavy objects (and bending our twisting while doing so – lift with your legs, friends!), driving heavily-vibrating vehicle, or even being pregnant. Sciatica can also occur because of spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, or when one vertebrae slips forward over another one. Some things that make you more prone are being overweight, having diabetes, and prolonged sitting.
How can massage fit in to my treatment plans?
Trigger point massage therapy in particular, while not as relaxing as your typical massage, can bring a major dose of healing to your sciatic pain. In trigger point therapy, your massage therapist will manipulate trigger spots through cycles of pressure and release. It can take several sessions to work through the trigger spot, but doing so can bring great relief.
Swedish or deep tissue massage can also be extremely helpful for treating your sciatica symptoms. A tight lower back can put pressure on inflamed sciatic nerves. Working out those knots and tight spots can ease that pressure, and bring relief. Plus, don’t underestimate the power of released endorphins when you’re in pain. These powerful “feel good” hormones that are released during a massage can act as a whole-body pain reducer.
Also, when we’re in pain, other parts of our body tend to try and compensate. Think: a limp to favor a hurt hip, a hunched posture to compensate for a hurt back, or sitting oddly to protect a painful leg. Experiencing a massage takes care of your whole body, and works the tensed-up areas that are affected by your painful sciatica.
Please note that you should always consult a doctor about your sciatica pain. He or she can help confirm your diagnosis, and help you map out an appropriate treatment plan.